Not for the Faint of Heart: A Reading List on International Adoption


I’ve developed a reading list over the past few weeks focusing on various aspects of international adoption. I admit, I haven’t read everything on this list but have bookmarked many of these so I can return to them during my upcoming vacation. Here’s what I’ve compiled so far:

  • Cultural Identity and Internationally Adopted Children: Qualitative Approach to Parental Representations: The scholarly title may seem intimidating, but even just a read of the abstract presents what I consider to be an interesting topic: how adoptive parents’ associations with their adopted children’s birth countries and cultures affect adoptee’s cultural identities.
  • International Adoption: Global Inequalities and the Circulation of Children: My copy of this book is in transit as I write this, and while the title somewhat turned me off by what I interpreted to be a clear agenda on the authors’ part, I have to admit, I’m still intrigued. What attracted me to this book in particular is the link made between adoption and international relations, a point of view that I imagine draws division within the international adoption community.
  • Law You Can Use: International adoption rules vary according to state, national and international law: I was adopted from Korea in the late 1970s, before there was the Hague Adoption Convention. For this, and other reasons, the story of my adoption greatly differs from the stories of more recent adoptees whose parents were required to travel to their children’s birth countries to initiate the adoption process. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to adopt a child internationally these days, this is a great introduction to the process.
  • Fraud and Corruption in International Adoption: The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism has put together this fascinating site exploring the darker side of international adoption. I could spend hours reading the volumes of material they have published on the topic and because of this, I am a more than a little bitter that Korean Air does not offer in-flight wifi for I’d gladly pay an extra fee for the service just to be able to use this precious free time to further explore this site. I guess this means I’ll be killing some trees before my trip.
  • The Politics of Adoption: I guess you may have noticed a trend by now when it comes to this reading list. Even National Geographic has ventured into this issue area. The following excepts seem to sum the stance being taken on this page:

    There’s still some disagreement about whether international adoption should be promoted broadly or only as a last resort, because some scholars and child advocates believe that removing children from their birth cultures is traumatic for the children and harmful to their homelands, no matter how nurturing their new families may be….Opponents of international adoption, including UNICEF, suggest that the money and effort spent on giving homes to a few children would be better spent on improving conditions in the children’s native countries. The idea is that reducing poverty and disease would reduce the number of orphans.

    I have a few opinions about this reasoning, which will have to wait for another blog post, but while this is a popular sentiment I have heard expressed often, even among adoptees themselves, I believe it ignores a host of other issues that drive international adoption, and those factors go beyond “poverty and disease,” which are convenient realities to “blame” for transnational adoption. But more on that from me later.

  • Politics of International and Domestic Adoption in China: I have not read this in full, but based off the abstract, I am including this on my reading list as an example as to why the driving factors behind international adoption are not as simple as reducing “poverty and disease” as mentioned in the bullet point above. There are so many complex reasons why international adoption exists (and should continue to be promoted), with cultural, social, and legal factors all needing to be considered. No one said international adoption was easy, but I’m not ready to advocate its demise quite yet.

So there you have it. A decent collection of readings to keep you occupied on the political and social issues surrounding international adoption. Different from the flowery, happy stories we often hear online about the benefits of adoption (which I still personally find value in as well, for what it’s worth), this list is not for the faint of heart. The articles on this list address real and difficult issues surrounding international adoption, but also present diverse points of view that we should at least consider as we further explore this world, which has significantly changed from how things were before.

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